Experts back ‘Covid-19 passport’ but want more info

Dr Zainal: ‘Accessibility is still limited to government facilities as the provider for the vaccine.’

PETALING JAYA: Health experts have expressed support for the government’s plans to issue a “Covid-19 vaccine passport” for those who have been inoculated, but want no discrimination in the exercise.

Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said although it was welcomed, the government must be clear on what the passport would be used for.

“This is to avoid unnecessary discrimination and misuse. It is because the vaccine is currently voluntary, and it is done in phases until next year.

“Accessibility is still limited to government facilities as the provider for the vaccine, ” he said.

Dr Kuljit: ‘The vaccine passport will allow us to know who has been vaccinated and who hasn’t.’Dr Kuljit: ‘The vaccine passport will allow us to know who has been vaccinated and who hasn’t.’Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia’s president Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh agreed that it was a good idea, but called for more time to evaluate the possibility of any discrimination.

“The vaccine passport will allow us to know who has been vaccinated and who hasn’t. It will be easier too for private hospitals to know the vaccination status before commencing treatment for an individual although we will still treat all patients with or without vaccination, but the pre-treatment process may differ. We will wait for the guidelines, ” he said.

He said everyone should get vaccinated as the risk of side effects of the vaccine was negligible when compared to the long-term complications from Covid-19 infection.

For those aged under 18 who were not in the vaccination programme, Dr Kuljit said he did not have an answer on what would happen to this group.

“I don’t know if they are not vaccinated, can they perhaps still travel? Do they need to be tested or quarantined, is there a protocol or SOP?” he asked.

Several countries in the European Union such as Czech Republic, Hungary, Iceland, Sweden, Estonia, Poland and Denmark are implementing vaccine passports as proof of an individual’s vaccination status in a bid to reopen international travel.

However, there have been growing concerns worldwide over the ethics and human rights violations of the implementation of vaccine passports with the World Health Organisation (WHO) noting that it was, for now, opposed to have this as a condition for allowing international travellers entry into other countries.

Universiti Malaya virologist Prof Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar said he was against such a proposal, citing the WHO stand.

He said this could also lead to employment discrimination (one may only be hired if the person is vaccinated), and against those with medical issues, and even those with religious reasons.

“You cannot discriminate against people based on race, colour, religion and now vaccination status. You will be discriminating against a subset of our population. They are our citizens, pay taxes like everyone else and have equal rights of protection under the law, ” he said.

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